Shopping in Sweden is a lot like shopping in the rest of the world... except 25% tax is included in your purchase. Luckily for most shoppers, if you are a smart shopper, you can get a nice rebate. Many of the stores are boutiques, so you would shop there if you want something in particular, but with the rising popularity of big-box retailer stores, I'm sure the next Target or Best Buy (but a Swedish version) will appear in the next 2-5 years.
As for fashion, I was surprised to find that anything "American" tends to be very popular among Swedes. As an American in Sweden, I can certainly say that my style tends to be very different than that of the youth. My clothes are a bit baggier than Swedes, I wear jeans instead of Chinos, they tend to wear blazers and I like to wear sweatshirts. But still, I find it very interesting that stores will emphasize how a certain fashion is "American".
I had a discussion with my friend Emelie about whether people buy "American" because it is American Style, or just because they like the brand. For example, Ralph Lauren is a very popular brand here in Sweden, but it also happens to be from an American designer. Are brands popular because it comes from America, or are all of these popular brands that people like all coincidentally American?
I think it is a combination of both. Right now, American design is trendy. I think that because so many popular brands come out of America, many designers throughout the world are inspired by American Fashion, and so style and fashion is permeating the whole globe. In 5 years, Europe and America might all have the same general fashion trends, and individual areas might come up with new styles, but the way ideas and trends are able to spread through the globe will cause these trends to be picked up very fast.
I think this is important to note for Entrepreneurship. As trends and companies become more subject to greater globalization, the world becomes "flatter", as Thomas Friedman would say in his book, "The World is Flat". The internet gives people access to a huge breadth of information, and soon enough, the world could be the same. This level playing field for businesses creates both an awesome opportunity for entrepreneurship now, but a grave look at future innovation and entrepreneurship in the future. When the world begins to think the same, there is huge opportunity to grow your business across the whole world. But when the world finally becomes the same, innovation stemming from differences is minimized. I hope that this speculation can be falsified, but if not, I hope we don't all become the same in my lifetime. I love innovation and different ways of approaching problems and thinking.
I think it comes down to individual countries policies and cultural traditions to keep up a country's identity, because soon fashion, furniture, and retail purchases will no longer be a distinguishable characteristic. I assume that food will also be affected, but in a longer amount of time. As I study here, I am trying many new things, but I am also witnessing McDonalds stores in every city I go to.
I hope each country can be competitive, yet retain its own cultural identity.